When Francisco Lindor first got traded here, I, as a part of the minors team here at Amazin’ Avenue, wrote some words on who the Mets dealt to acquire him. To open my thoughts, I wrote: “This one hits different. Francisco Lindor getting traded to the Mets is something that would not and could not—and frankly, did not—happen in the decades of Wilpon ownership. They would not have even been rumored to acquire him, let alone pull the trigger. Naturally, an extension needs to be done here, but I doubt you trade two shortstops and not extend the one you get back.”
If that trade hit differently, then this extension hits in another stratosphere. The Mets and Lindor—and his agent David Meter—let this deal go down as close to the wire as you can possibly go, ultimately agreeing to a franchise record ten-year, $341 million deal a mere 43 minutes before Lindor’s Opening Day deadline would have struck. To look at that number and see “New York Mets” after it is unbelievable, even days after the deal has been agreed to. It might never be believable for a section of the fanbase.
I can pontificate on how good of a baseball player Lindor is, but that is something we will all see and hear for years. It matters, of course, but the Mets doing something of this magnitude is something else entirely.
As a Mets fan in his late-20s, the vast majority of my Mets fandom has been deeply frustrating. There were good years, good teams, and good players, for sure, but they were often overshadowed by a never ending storm of Wilponian nonsense that saw basically every good thing that would happen to the franchise turn to ash. For a lack of a better word, it sucked and it felt like it would never change.
When Steve Cohen bought the team, there was obvious excitement. He is ungodly, stupidly rich, and he openly discussed actually spending money on good players and not doing whatever the Wilpons did in their post-Madoff slog to mediocrity.
The Lindor contract shows that the Mets actually mean business, and that whatever Cohen was telling us, as fans, in November was in fact his intention. Lindor is going to be many things: the face of the franchise for a decade and all that comes with it. But he also represents a significant shift in what it means to be a Mets fan. It is legitimately different now, and there is proof of that difference.
As I wrote in January, we Mets fans could not even dream of a player of Lindor’s caliber coming here. Both David Wright and Jacob deGrom had to fight and claw to get extensions worth half this money, and they were mostly surrounded by rosters you wouldn’t dare write home about. An outside star getting this type of dough to lead the Mets to the promised land? Impossible to imagine.
That is obviously different now. And it makes me think to my late parents. They both instilled a passionate Mets fandom in me that saw me go to games every year since I was literally an infant, and watching the Mets was appointment viewing for everyone involved. Family dinners were not at a table, they were in front of the television watching some—probably bad—Mets team. You did not miss Mets games in the Henderson household, and frankly, you did not want to, regardless of the on-field product. They would have adored watching Lindor play and would have been head over heels in disbelief and excitement about this extension. They bled orange and blue. And it makes me think of every fan, like them and like myself, who never would’ve imagined this happening.
This deal means an incredible amount on the field, and it means just as much off of it.
Fans of mine and Thomas’s generation grew up with the David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran era, which was exciting and full of promise. Then we watched as it ended fleetingly and as unceremoniously as possible. Ownership refused to commit to Reyes long-term—not even showing up to the negotiation table, in fact—and trashed Beltran out the door. They did commit to Wright long-term, but had to be publicly pressured into it, and the team needed Wright to take a team-friendly deal to get it done.
After that, the Mets went through roughly a decade of consistently ignoring high-end free agents while letting even moderately-priced free agents of their own walk. That was a lesson to me and other fans of out generation: Don’t expect the Mets to go out and get stars or really try to bend the Earth to retain their own. All of those cool, flashy stars will never sign here. Please enjoy your nice little signings like Frank Francisco and Marlon Byrd. Stop dreaming about nicer things.
That mindset was ingrained to us repeatedly for years. To fans of my generation, the Mets have only ever been this way. Long-term commitments and flashy moves were completely foreign to us. Personally, I’m too young to remember the Mets going out and making a commitment to a player like Beltran, and I was still too young to really appreciate the statement that trading for Johan Santana made.
The only big moves the Mets really made for us were the various Yoenis Cespedes acquisitions. While those were cool and he was a big bat, he wasn’t ever truly top-10 player, and no long-term commitment was ever really necessary there. He was more of a player under very specific circumstances that made him attainable to the Mets; we knew few other free agents would even entertain those types of deals. Similarly, the Jacob deGrom extension a few years later needed a hometown discount as well, just like Wright’s. Neither of those moves exactly changed the culture or perception of the organization.
So doing something like not only trading for Francisco Lindor, but making him a Met for life at a premium price is the type of stuff that has been unthinkable to fans of my generation. We’ve heard stories of the Piazza trade, of the Carter and Hernandez deals, and wondered what that would ever be like.
Lindor is the answer to that question—and then some. This is what it’s like. Not only is he the best player the Mets have acquired since at least Piazza, but he’s a type of player the Mets have never had. The Mets have seldom had elite position players, and even less frequently have they had truly fun, marketable stars. Wright was marketable, but relatively boring. deGrom doesn’t like the spotlight. Harvey didn’t last long enough. Cespedes didn’t like to talk that much.
Lindor is all of them combined into one. He can rock the cover of Sports Illustrated like Harvey, while bringing the leadership of Wright, the flair of Cespedes, and the suave of Beltran combined into one total package. He embraces the spotlight, loves being a public figure, is flashy, cool, and extremely exciting to watch. In other words, he’s everything fans of my generation have never known the Mets to be. Players like this don’t play for the Mets. And now Lindor does, and he’ll be the face of the Mets for a decade. He might just turn this city on its ears.